CHUKS OYEMA-AZIKEN writes that the Anti-illegal Crude Oil Refining operations of the Nigerian Navy is also helping to check environmental degradation in the Niger-Delta region.
A report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said that Nigeria lost about $42 billion to crude theft as well as domestic and refined petroleum products losses between 2009 and 2018.
The effect of vandalism, illegal bunkering and oil theft activities leads to loss of revenues to the Nigerian Government and the oil firms that own the assets from which oil is stolen, pipeline vandalism, river and land pollution, environmental degradation , increased criminality and insecurity in the Niger Delta.
According to the Nigerian Navy, there is hardly a day, it does not shut down illegal refineries as well as vandalised pipes and abandoned oil well.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas stated this when the Director-General of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Mr Idris Musa paid him a courtesy call in his office in 2019.
According to the CNS “The statistics and the records we have, showed that something serious needs to be done, therefore, we must come together to address the menace being done in the environment”
To tackle the illegal oil refiners, who cause economic sabotage in the country, the Nigerian Navy has detailed several of it’s ships and men and officers to the Niger-Delta region.
In line with the mandate of Mr President, the Chief of the Naval Staff articulated his Vision which is ‘To develop a credible naval power in fulfillment of the Nigerian Navy’s constitutional roles towards enhancing national prosperity and security.
This vision of the CNS has led to demobilization and destruction of this illegal refiners.
While, crushing these economic saboteurs, the Navy is also helping to check environmental degradation in the affected communities.
It is a known fact that illegal oil bunkering and artisanal refining are on the rise in various communities in the Niger Delta, with an estimated 200,000 and 300,000 barrels of oil lost daily to theft, known in the country as illegal bunkering.
As at October 2020, the Navy has successfully immobilized 5,019 illegal refineries.
The Nigerian Navy has also performed creditably well in the fight against crude oil theft and illegal bunkering. On the whole, the value of POL products the Nigerian Navy saved from being stolen from 2015 to October 2020 is estimated at N695 Billion.
The Nigerian Navy was able to achieve these milestones with an annual average of 25,574 hours of maritime patrol as well as conduct of over 38 major maritime operations.
The danger of illegal refineries to the environment is aptly captured by the NOSDRA Director-General.
According to him “We want to let the community people to understand what dangers there are in the case of oil spill and when oil spills, it goes into the rivers that they drink or use for domestic purposes.
“It also goes to farmland, to the creeks and to the fish, all of these places are endangered and we need them all the time to sustain our daily livelihood.
“It destroys the environment, endangers your life as a person and causes some social and economic dislocation to the community where you come from and Nigeria at large.”
Major stakeholders in the Niger-Delta acknowledge the laudable role of the Nigerian Navy, that is why Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers during a visit by the Naval Warfare College Course Four in Port Harcourt appealed to the Navy to ensure that those who sabotage the government’s effort to eliminate bunkering are brought to justice.
Interestingly, the Commandant Nigerian Naval War College, Rear Adm. Adeseye Ayobanjo, said the theme of the Course is “Curbing Pipeline Vandalism Towards Enhancing Socio-economic Development in Rivers State”
“In choosing to carry out this study, we note that the Rivers Government and other security agencies have been doing so much to curb the menace of pipeline vandalism.
“The participants of the War College will interact with the people and make recommendations to the Nigerian Navy for implementation.’’
There is also collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to tackle crude oil theft and attacks on oil and gas facilities in the country.
During a visit to the Naval Headquarters by the NNPC GMD, Malam Mele Kyari, the CNS reiterated the commitment of the Navy to live up to its mandate and work towards ending all forms of criminality in the nation’s territorial waters.
So, the deployment of officers and men and equipment of the Nigerian Navy to it’s formations in the Niger-Delta is not only stopping the economic saboteurs, but a deliberate effort to make the environment conducive for habitation.